Category Archives: dresses

Simplicity 1716

Yesterday, I decided that I was going to tackle my pile of unfinished items. When I get to the end of a project, I make a mistake, and I get really frustrated right away. So, it goes in the drawer. I moved across the country with this one, unfinished. I made Simplicity 1716, view D, starting in 2012 I think. The problem here was that I sewed the armbands on the wrong way and then I doubled down on that decision. My solution last night was to cut off the armbands, since it would be really really hard to unpick the stitching, and to sew on new armbands. I left the hem unfinished, as the slinky jersey and my sewing machine were having a fight, even with the walking foot on.

Front View
Simplicity 1716, View D, front view
Actual Back View
Simplicity 1716, View D, front view

Looking at these pictures, I have some serious posture issues. My shoulders are uneven, and my high left hip has become even higher after having physical therapy for my right knee. This means that every skirt or dress I make gets caught up on my left hip, and hangs lower on my right hip. I need to learn the adjustment for that. I also have forward head and forward shoulders from using a computer all day for…years, plus a nerve impingement in my left shoulder that the posture probably doesn’t help. You don’t realize the toll time takes on your body until you look at pictures of yourself.

On a brighter note, I took these pictures with a camera and tripod that my kind and generous mother-in-law has lent me. The camera doesn’t use a remote, so I have to use the self timer. I need to learn how to use the setup better.

One thing I like about this pattern is the pleat detail that helps to make the cowl neck. One thing I don’t like is the lack of waist shaping. I also think that the shoulders should be narrower, although that might be a personal issue and not a pattern issue.

Have you made Simplicity 1716? If so, how do you like it?


New Look 6145 with Collar in Ponte

I made New Look 6145 in a size 18, which correlates with my measurements.


It is very loose, even under the arms, which indicates that it is too big. What a difference fabric makes! The first time I made this dress, it was in stiff wax cotton, and I could hardly move my arms, though the dress was loose. I need to take in the sides by at least a half an inch either side.


This time, I sewed the sleeves in flat. It was my first time doing so and it was way easier than in the round! I used this tutorial. I also used a zig zag stitch, 1.5 in width, to sew the sleeve hems and side seams. Everywhere else, I used a straight stitch.

I haven’t done the hem yet, as I want to take in the sides first.

The next project will be pants, for the pants fitting class.

New Look 6145: Completed

New Look 6145 front view
Here is the completed dress!

I was frustrated by the tent-ishness of the unaltered NL 6145, so I took it to Heather at Sew Fabulous and asked her to help me make it more fitted. She suggested that I draw (and sew) in a new waist curve and lengthen the back darts up to around my shoulder blades. I also made the new darts take in about an inch of fabric each. This is definitely an improvement over the original!

Here are some alternate views of the dress. It’s still not perfect, but it’s better. I think the lack of drape in the fabric contributes to all of the weird lumps as I move my body in the dress.

New Look 6145 side view
Here is the side view. The dress showcases my back curves.There are some odd folds back there, though.
New Look 6145 back view
Here is the back view.If it were any tighter, I wouldn’t be able to sit, but it still looks loose here.
6145 side view 2
Alternate side view. See how the fabric blouses in the front when I lift my knee. I think the stiffness of the fabric is contributing to that. What do you think?

I think I might try to make this again, using the alterations that Heather helped me do, but in a knit so that I can be more comfortable and so that there can be more drape. I really would like to have a flattering woven shift with sleeves. Maybe I should also try this in something like a rayon challis.

I will work on finishing the Vogue 9021 dress within the next week and will post it as soon as I can!

New Look 6145, View B: Now with Sleeves! Plus, Fitting Issues.

I’ve completed New Look 6145 (size 18, no alterations), aside from steaming the sleeve seam and sewing the bottom hem. This was my first time setting in sleeves…which I realize I did backwards/inside out because my fabric looks the same on both sides. Of course, I realized this after I’d hand-sewn a catch stitch hem on both sleeves. Viewing this dress as a draft, I decided to just continue with constructing the dress. It fits fine in the upper back and upper chest areas, but it is quite voluminous and shapeless in the full bust and waist areas. See here:

New Look 6145 front
So roomy in the bust and waist areas! I look like a rectangle.

Peep my crafting gloves! Best gift ever for a crafter.

I know the African wax cloth, which is a quilting weight cotton, is to blame for the stiff drape (anti-drape) of this dress. I have a curvy figure: 41″ full bust, 33″ waist, 43″ hips. I want to show it off, not hide it in a cocoon. I need to address this, possibly with taking in the sides and adjusting the intake of the darts. I will also shorten the dress. As a shorty, I look better in a just-above-knee-length dress, and I know with even with the hem, the dress as it is will come to the bottom of my knees.

The sleeves look okay here, but when I raise my arm at all, the hem of the sleeve digs into my arm. There’s no give there at all. I think I will shorten the sleeves so that I have the ability to move. In my next version, I will adjust the sleeve to be a bit wider.

Here’s the back:

New Look 6145 back
This is okay, aside from my janky lapped zipper issues at the top. No one will notice that. This was my second lapped zipper, I believe.

When I went to try on the dress again after attaching both sleeves, it was a bit of a struggle to zip it up. The dress was fighting me a bit. I think it’s the sleeves’ fault. Also, the sleeves are sort of hanging off the side of my shoulder. Shouldn’t the sleeve cap fall at the top of the shoulder? I think this is part of the reason why my arms’ mobility is limited in this dress. Should I do a narrow shoulder adjustment here? (Also, this picture really shows off the back of my neck. You can tell I do a lot of reading and computing.)

I want to make this again in a woven, maybe a flowy rayon challis, once I make the adjustments. I also want to try this in a knit. This seems like an appropriate dress style for work, so I want to make this thing happen!

As always, I welcome your feedback and suggestions. I am going to try redoing the topstitching on Vogue 9021 after trying out different tensions and stitch lengths on a scrap of the broadcloth, and I think I will not topstitch all the way down, since that is causing the weird puckers at the bottom. Maybe I will tack that extra facing flap down, so that it stays out of the way.

Vogue 9021: A Little Confusing Dress in Progress

Vogue 9021
The dress in question.

I first noted Vogue 9021 when I was browsing for a cocktail dress with a twist. I looked up as many versions as I could find, to see if there was anything weird about the construction that I should know about. MimiG‘s version (in a knit) came up, as well as Adrienne‘s sophisticated number, Eryn‘s geometric dress (where she sewed up the armhole a bit), and Gabrielle‘s floral version (where she narrowed the dress a bit). I was warned about the armholes being so large that they would show some side bra.

I decided to go with one of the suggested fabrics, a polycotton broadcloth, for my first try. I chose a size 18, even though there would be 3 inches of ease at the bust, according to the tissue. I figured that part of the ease is for those fluttering sleeves, so I didn’t want to take away that feature.

The construction mostly makes sense, but the part about sewing the sleeve facing down tripped me up. The facing goes all the way down to the actual side of the bodice, and the way that the instructions ask you to sew it up makes for some awkward fabric bunching and a weirdly bulky join there. When I went to topstitch down the facing (’cause ain’t nobody got time for hand-sewing), it just made the situation more awkward. Here are some pictures.

awkward sleeve facing
See how awkward that join is? How do I make this less awkward???

The instructions say, “Turn facing to inside. Press. Sew outer edge in place.” The drawing of this step isn’t very clear about that join.

awkward sleeve join
Here is where the sleeve joins the side of the bodice. It’s pinched. Why?

I tried on the pieces of the dress–the bodice and the skirt–separately as they were finished, but with no zipper. It did not bode well for the finished dress. I clipped the zipper area closed with Wonder Clips when I tried on the skirt, and I had some tightness over my lower belly, with puffiness below it. Does that indicate that I need a full tummy adjustment? Also, the bodice was rather capacious. My bosom was like two apples lost in a giant grocery bag. I hate not finishing things before starting something new, though, so I just didn’t sew for almost a week out of frustration.

I still haven’t joined the bodice and skirt because I’m still frustrated about the sleeve finishing situation.

Vogue 9021 bodice
It looks so innocuous, but it fought with me every step of the way. No matter the stitch length or tension, the fabric puckered.
badly behaved facing
This fabric puckered if I even looked at it. I need to stop being so cheap with my fabric purchases. Pressing helped NOTHING.
Vogue 9021 skirt
Broadcloth: ehhhhhhh.

Do you have any suggestions about what to do about the armhole/facing/bodice side seam situation? Also, I’ve promised myself that I am going to schedule an sewing class to focus entirely on fitting. I just want cute clothes that fit my curvy body!

New Look 6145: Progress Notes

I started New Look 6145 the weekend of 2/7, tracing and cutting out the pattern pieces. I used African wax fabric that I bought in the New York Garment District last summer. (The purchase of this fabric was the first time I have successfully, accidentally, haggled a price. It’s a source of pride!) the fabric is light and crisp, even after a trip through the washer and drier. It is also a bit sheer.

Edit: This is my progress, as of 2/17/15–side seams are sewn and finished (clean-finished), vent is finished and reinforced, and zipper is inserted (somewhat poorly, but I am not too fussed about it). Next up: sleeves and a hem!

New Look 6145, shift dress, muslin
New Look 6145, partially completed

On Monday, I sewed the darts. This dress is different from Simplicity 1609 (another shift dress) in a few ways; one of those ways is that it lacks shoulder darts and another is that the angled darts are less dramatic than the French darts on S1609. It also has a back vent, which I am not sure is entirely necessary, since the dress seems to be rather short.

On Friday, I worked on the facing. I had some cutting mishaps, so the facings are not entirely even, after seeing the to the back pieces, which were the ones I mis-cut. I decided to turn under the un-notched edge and sew to finish, rather than using the fake overlocking stitch to finish, as I usually do. I think it looks neater turned-under.

On Saturday, I decided to do a lapped centered zipper, rather than the invisible zipper called for in the pattern. The decision was based on what was available in my collection of zippers; the only matching zipper I had in the correct length was a regular zipper. This was my second time doing a lapped zipper, so I found it pretty exciting. I mashed up Lladybird’s lapped zipper method with the Reader’s Digest method, since I’d already basted down the facing, according to the directions in the NL 6145 packet.

This is my first garment with separate sleeve pieces that must be set in. I’m looking forward to this challenge!

Simplicity 5914 Dress (1970s): Plans

Kestrel Makes is co-hosting the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge this year. I decided that I’d like to join in, saying that I would sew one vintage pattern this year. (I don’t want to overextend myself!)

I settled on the 1970s as the decade whose style I wanted to explore. I wanted to find something relatively easy, but with a couple of added details that would allow me to try a new technique. I found Simplicity 5914, a shift-like dress with a collar and cuffs, along with a waist seam (unlike a true shift), which fit the bill.

Simplcitiy 2914, a 1970s dress pattern
Image is from Etsy @AuntHoneysEstate/Google Image Search.

I ordered the pattern in size 18.5 from eBay; I couldn’t find one in 18 or 16.5. My plan is to try to tissue fit the pattern, as it’s already cut in that size, or to trace the pieces slightly smaller. What should I do? I’m excited about learning how to do a collar and cuffs. I plan on starting a practice run of this dress this weekend.

I wonder why Simplicity doesn’t print patterns in half-sizes anymore?

Simplicity 1609, a Jiffy Pattern: A Shifty Shift Dress

I read about Simplicity 1609 on Gertie’s New Blog for Better Sewing and on the We Sew Retro website. I really liked the versions that I saw there; I had visions of myself looking sleek and mod in my own version. I believe I started this series in December 2013 and finished it in January 2014.

I made a muslin out of a polka-dotted sheet (no photo), using size 16 at the bust and 18 at the waist and hip. I didn’t put a zipper in it. It seemed fine, though loose.

I made a second version, complete with zipper, out of green paisley broadcloth. It had some fitting issues in the back, but the front looked good. (This was my first centered zipper! I hand-basted it in before sewing it in by machine.)

Simplicity 1609, shift dressI looked up “puffiness in upper back” on Google. I was surprised to have this, since my lower back dips in sharply…normally, I have pooling of fabric in the lower back. I believe I found that the back bodice was too long, so I shortened the back bodice above where the waistline was (approximately, since the back bodice and skirt are not separate). The fit in the upper back improved on the third version, made of linen from JoAnn’s, but the fit in front declined, becoming loose and giving the impression of a big belly.

Simplicity 1609 Front Modeled

Sorry about all of the background stuff–this was my one opportunity to get a photo, and it was dark and cold outside. Even though the fit isn’t perfect, I have worn it to work a lot…with a belt to control the puffiness in front. I like how breezy it is.

A sewing teacher suggested that I actually go down a size to 14, so I may try that on the next version of this. I find Simplicity 1609 easy to sew, and I like the silhouette in all the versions I’ve seen. I want to make it work for my figure.


Learning New Sewing Skills: Simplicity 2444 Draft

When I started sewing, learning new skills was my main goal–it still is. Here’s one of my early hits/misses, a first draft of Simplicity 2444, sewn in February 2014:

Simplicity 2444

Skills learned:

  • Inserting an invisible zipper using an invisible zipper foot
  • Underlining the bodice with muslin, following Reader’s Digest instructions
  • Using muslin as a sew-in interfacing
  • Gathering (the skirt)
  • Using rectangles to create a gathered skirt (learned from Dolly Clackett)

Simplicity 2444 Back View

Things I did not do well here:

  • Paying closer attention to the instructions (and misunderstanding the instructions because I was looking at the Reader’s Digest sewing book and the instructions, which were different), rather than my common sense, which resulted in the zipper not ending at the top
  • Sewing the skirt in such a way that some gathering threads are visible
  • Hemming (I did a quick hem because this serves as a draft/a costume, since the fabric is crappy thin poly $1 Wal-Mart fabric–in this photo, the dress is unhemmed)

I made this (16 bust, 18 waist, rectangles for skirt) during February 2014, less than a year after I started learning how to sew. It has gaping in the back due to the zipper issue and possibly a “crone neck” issue, and gaping around the neckline, which others have noted.

Simplicity 2444

In my second version of S2444, I did 18 all over (due to weight gain) and added little darts on the back shoulder area to help fit over the curve of my upper back–thanks, Pattern Review commenters! I did the zipper properly, after lots of practice. For my second version, I used the included skirt, which has a lot of volume. I’ll edit this post later to feature it.